Last Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal “net neutrality” regulations (as they are commonly termed) in favor of a “closed internet” policy.
For those who have not yet been caught up to speed, Wikipedia defines “net neutrality” simply and concisely.
“Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.”
The outcry over the FCC’s decision has been loud and angry. Public interest groups and social media activists hint that the loss of these regulations could mean the end of the internet as we know it.
Some, like Instagrammer bookish.harpy, say that closed internet may mean the loss of freedom of information and the rise of censorship.
Bookish.harpy adds, “The price for internet service will undoubtedly increase to the point where it will become a classist luxury. This is just another way for the 1% to keep the rest of us as uneducated masses.”
However, net neutrality laws have only been in place since 2015. All the successes and achievements that the net soared to since its birth occurred in an environment without such stringent regulations.
NPR quotes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying, "What is responsible for the phenomenal development of the Internet? Certainly wasn't heavy-handed government regulation. … The Internet wasn't broken in 2015, we were not living in some digital dystopia. ... It is time for us to bring faster, better and cheaper Internet access to all Americans."
Josh Steimle, writer for Forbes magazine, sided with Pai in his 2014 article against the introduction of net neutrality. He wrote in favor of free market competition, privacy, and freedom.
“The U.S. government,” he wrote, “has shown time after time that it is ineffective at managing much of anything. This is by design. The Founders intentionally created a government that was slow, inefficient, and plagued by gridlock, because they knew the greatest danger to individual freedom came from a government that could move quickly--too quickly for the people to react in time to protect themselves. If we value our freedom, we need government to be slow. But if government is slow, we shouldn’t rely on it to provide us with products and services we want in a timely manner at a high level of quality.”
The loss of net neutrality laws does not mean a complete loss of oversight. The repeal, says NPR, “will essentially shift all enforcement to the Federal Trade Commission, which polices violations rather than pre-empts them through regulations.”
For those who find FTC policing insufficient, however, the conflict is not over. Net neutrality activists and consumer interest groups have stated their intention to fight the FCC decision through continued rallies and even lawsuits.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/zaozaa09
Publication date: December 18, 2017